Ana Rodriguez and Katie Weiss are students at Harvard Law School and they are working with BUILD to develop a social media strategy and online presence.
On Thursday, February 2nd, we attended the first Business Showcase at Community Academy of Science and Health (CASH) high school to watch the BUILD students’ first presentation of the businesses they have been designing since the beginning of the school year. Immediately when we entered the auditorium where the students would present their projects in less than an hour, we could feel the nervous energy as they made the final preparations for their presentations. Throughout the room, mentors could be heard giving students invaluable tips on how to take their presentations to the next level – “Project your voice,” “Slow it down and make your point,” “Just breathe.”
One company, Sticky Fun, wanted to run through their presentation one more time before going in front of judges (members of the Boston Business community) who would give them feedback and ultimately, judge their product against those of their peers. Sticky Fun’s creation consisted of a customizable sticker that could be removed from any surface and reused later. The team came up with the idea because one of the members used to have stickers on his skateboard, but when they got torn up, he couldn’t take them off without ruining the skateboard. Thus, a business idea was born. The group explained that while they had initially targeted children as their main customers, after attending the MassChallenge event only a couple of weeks earlier and taking to young entrepreneurs in the community, they were surprised to learn that corporate clients may also be interested in the product.
After putting the finishing touches on their presentations, the students, dressed professionally in business attire, assembled to present before the judges. Another group, Blind Vision, described their product, a lip-gloss that also moisturizes and softens lips while maintaining one of several flavors. After the group outlined their expected price range ($1.89) and promotions (buy one get the second at half price), the judges really pushed the young entrepreneurs to think deeply about their product – What was going to set the lip-gloss apart from others already on the market? How were they going to make the lip-gloss? Who was their target market? The students were not fazed by this tough line of questioning. They thought quickly on their feet, improvised and answered each question posed by the judges with confidence and enthusiasm.
After presenting, students were clearly both relieved to be done, and visibly nervous about the next steps based on the judges’ comments. Groups huddled together after their presentations to discuss what they would do next to improve their product and their presentation for the second showcase later in the school year.
At the end of the event, the judges selected two winning teams: The Unpredictables (whose product was a device that can warm a coat or fleece) and Picture This (whose product consisted of a customizable pillowcase and an iPod holder). The two individual students who gave the best performances, both in presenting and answering the judges’ questions were also honored. The winning teams each received $5 restaurant gift certificates. In the closing remarks, one of the judges offered students some sage advise on how to stay encouraged, “Whether you are up or down,” she said, “you cannot give up; you have to be courageous.” The night ended on a positive note for every team when Ryan Oliver, the Site Director for BUILD in Boston, reminded students, “Today, there was only one winner, but in four years, there will be one hundred winners. You will all get accepted into college and live the life that you want to live.”
At the end of the day, the students said they were excited to have their first big presentation under their belt and were looking forward to the next Showcase. We know it will be a success!
Here are some pictures from the event!